Today’s schedule on the Dirty Practice Symposium was taken up with symposium-type stuff: talks, questions, discussion and a workshop. I didn’t have much time for painting (or any, in fact) or thinking about what I am doing. I did, however, have a lot of time to think about wider subjects.
In the morning we were treated to three presentations. These were all interesting and thought-provoking. The most inspiring in terms of art practice for me was the first one given by Henry Ward, one of the participants and a ‘real’ artist. He was very relaxed in his approach and he talked briefly about his process of working at home (sporadically, after hours and hurriedly) and what his art is all about (found objects, inspiring objects). He then went into more depth about what he’s been thinking (a lot) and doing this week (a lot). I found his practice very interesting partly because he is a painter (and I paint) and partly because he paints objects (and I paint objects). But also, because he is trying to exist somewhere between the figurative and the abstract (I have dabbled in this area of the world recently). His process is much more organic and automatic than mine though, so that is where we differ. However, I found much to be inspired by him and in fact I think he encouraged me, inadvertently perhaps, to just draw today.
The other two morning presentations were given by Clare Beattie about her ceramics / physics PhD practice and thesis and Holly Crawford about recent work concerned with the history of the ‘other’ in culture. I was very keen to see Holly’s presentation as she had had a huge impact on me three years ago when I attended the end of the Dirty Practice Symposium of that year. I still have one of the postcards she created and it is on my studio wall. I use it to remind me when I am feeling misunderstood that ‘normal persons don’t understand what we are doing’. This time, however, she carried out a more specifically targeted performance piece, about the ‘other’. I thought it was brilliant and clever. She was quite mesmerising in her adoption of a persona and her coming in and out of her self. However, her message didn’t hit me emotionally until she spoke about her childhood experience of being the ‘other’. This personal element to her talk and performance was the essence for me. It hurt. I was very moved. Perhaps because I, like so many other people, have had a similar experience in life.
In the afternoon, we all attended a talk and workshop given by Doris Rohr from Liverpool Hope University. Doris is a drawer. She loves things. She draws things. She has read Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, which is my current bible. So I felt a kindred spirit in the room. As part of the workshop we had to draw something, break that something and reconstruct that something. For this activity, she had brought along a number of charity-shop and home-found objects which she was happy for us to destroy. However, it is at this point where she and I differ in our thinking. She has no issue with the destruction of ‘ordinary’ replaceable objects. She is interested in the transformation of things and the influence of the organic on the inorganic. I am too, to a certain degree. Yet, I cannot destroy. I feel the pain of things. The complete reticence on my part about harming the objects fascinated me and gave me an odd feeling of discombobulation and anxiety. Instead, I rebelled against her instructions, and destroyed and reconstructed my drawing rather than the object (Wayne Rooney). I simply could not put myself or the object through the pain of destruction.
In terms of my practice, for what little time I had left, I decided to stop thinking and just draw on the wall using random biros. I quite like what I have created (it has grown since the photo below was taken). It isn’t a great work of art but it is interesting and has a potential. I have no idea whether it will go anywhere, or do anything, or mean anything. But it felt organic and interesting. It seems that I just can’t seem to get away from this idea that everything at the end of it all is just one big messy blob of thingness.
The thingness of things – the mess of things – dirty practice is having an impact. What will the last day bring?